How do you find a shipping solution that benefits business and customers? How should shipping rates be decided? Will international shipping be feasible? Does packaging really matter that much?
We’ve broken down key steps and decisions to help e-commerce brands approach shipping strategy for success.
Before you begin thinking about shipping, though, it is important to first go over your business goals, growth and products. Not only will these factors affect the shipping strategy geography and cost, but also ensure you choose a strategy that benefits your goals.
So, once you know where you are shipping, the size and weight of your products, and the kinds of profit you aim to see, you can begin building your shipping strategy.
Decide on shipping fees
Excessive shipping costs are the main reason UK shoppers abandon their cart – 61% in fact (source)! Although it may therefore be tempting to offer shipping at the lowest cost possible – even free – it’s not that simple. E-commerce brands must consider what makes the customer happy (the fastest and cheapest option) and what drives profits for business, hopefully finding a compromise.
There are four main ways of arranging shipping fees:
- Free shipping – Great for the customer! Less great for your business’ bottom line. Shipping has to be paid for somehow, and if the customer isn’t paying, you are.
- Flat rate/tabletop rate – Suitable for the sake of equality. With a flat rate, everyone pays the same, useful when shipments are fairly similar. With a table-top rate, the price increases according to its band, denoted by factors such as distance, order cost or shipment size.
- Live rates from couriers – A fair way to cover costs while giving low fees to customers. No money is made, but none is lost!
- Mixed strategy – Taking the best of all options and balancing a fee that enables surplus income to facilitate promotional free shipping, for example.
Shipping fees are not always black and white, they are affected by location, speed, delivery location and more. However, getting a good idea of what e-commerce shipping will cost and how that will be paid by customers forms the basis of the rest of the shipping strategy.
Decide on speed
Standard delivery for e-commerce brands, using the most common UK couriers, is around 3-5 working days, however 2-day shipping, next day delivery and even same day delivery are growing in popularity. Of course, the faster the delivery, the higher the fee. Although, over 40% of consumers are willing to pay more for same day delivery (source), so even if it costs more, speedy delivery may be worth the investment to please customers.
Often, there isn’t much e-commerce brands can do about the speed of delivery beyond choosing a courier and offering the same delivery windows they do. But e-commerce brands can highlight the options the offer, with transparent pricing and delivery times, as well as alerting customers to the deadlines. For example, if you are able to offer same day dispatch for next day delivery, it is crucial you let online customers know when the cut-off time is so they can place their orders in time.
Orders are picked, packed then shipped with the chosen courier.
Choose a courier
E-commerce brands shipping out of their own offices or warehouses need a courier they can rely on for an effective shipping strategy, even better if they can collect shipments. Popular couriers in the UK include Royal Mail, DPD, Hermes, Yodel, and Parcelforce Worldwide.
The majority of couriers offer the same services with competitive rates, so choosing one is often not a case of money or speed, but proximity to the business base. The main aspects to consider are price, delivery options, tracking options, locality, whether they collect shipments, and returns collection. Even the courier’s policy for missed delivery is key for a shipping strategy; if a customer isn’t in and misses a delivery, they can get frustrated at the e-commerce business when struggling to retrieve their package.
All the above aspects, despite being the responsibility of the courier not your business, can reflect on your brand, therefore courier choice is critical to an effective shipping strategy.
Perfect the packaging
Packaging is super important to e-commerce brands; not only does packaging protect the products but also forms the first impression of the brand for the customer. Packaging should be appropriately branded and attractive, but certainly shouldn’t break the bank. Achieving the right balance of lightweight enough to not add to shipping costs but sturdy enough to withstand transport, as well as making the packaging attractive, can be a big ask.
Materials should be considered too. Consumers are evermore environmentally conscious and will likely be fans of recyclable packaging, or even something made from recycled materials, so e-commerce brands should not overlook the importance of packaging at end of use.
If you aren’t sure which packaging type best fits your products, orders and overall shipping strategy, a courier or fulfilment supplier should be able to help with the sourcing and printing of packaging if required.
Third Party Logistics (3PL)
The most effective shipping strategies streamline the shipping process, integrate all aspects of e-commerce purchasing, and unite all stock, pick and pack services, and shipping in one space. E-commerce brands using a third party logistics provider benefit from having all aspects of fulfilment handled for less hassle, quick speeds and efficiency, and simple single-point billing.
Ideal for e-commerce brands starting out and growing businesses alike, outsourced fulfilment reduces the strain on time, space, and human resources.
Allegro Logistics offer speedy and reliable e-commerce fulfilment and have an innovative warehouse management system that integrates with hundreds of e-commerce platforms and shopping carts (including eBay, Amazing, Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento) for streamlined order processing and integrated stock management. Our on-the-ground team and array of courier partners ensure a smooth and speedy process for the fulfilment of all orders.
Check out our e-commerce fulfilment services.
Using real time reporting, e-commerce brands can monitor orders, track the fulfilment process, gain insights on stock levels, sync online information with warehouse data, review returns, and even track shipping, all from one platform.
With a fulfilment partner leading the shipping strategy, e-commerce brands can sit back, relax, and know that their brand and products are being well managed, leaving them to focus on marketing and the day-to-day duties.
Our handheld devices use our integrated warehouse management system to direct pickers in the most efficient manner.
57% UK consumers use their mobile SMSs to track their orders, and 54% use emails (source); thus, tracking appeals to over half the market. It is clear that consumers want to be able to keep an eye on their orders, so if you can, offer it!
Even if your business or the courier don’t offer live tracking, be sure to give your customers updates. For example, send an email once the order is received, then one when the order is dispatched, followed by another one once the order has been delivered.
The most desirable option, now very achievable with integrated software, would be to automate emails and information, or at least for businesses to be able to see this information. That way, when a customer rings up and asks for an update, you can simply pull up the map and give real time information, resulting in sublime customer service.